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A Wisdom Archive on Orphism


A selection of articles related to Orphism

We recommend this article: Orphism - 1, and also this: Orphism - 2.

Orphism is one of the topics in focus at Global Oneness. To understand more about this website as a resource for spiritual seekers please visit:

orphism, Orphism


Orphism: Encyclopedia - Orphism

Orphism or Orphic cubism, is a term coined in 1912 France by the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. He used the French term Orphisme to label the paintings of Robert Delaunay, relating them to Orpheus, the poet and symbol of the arts of song and the lyre in Greek mythology. The term may also be used in reference to the paintings of Delaunay's wife, Sonia Terk and to the Czech painter, Frantisek Kupka ...

Read more here: » Orphism: Encyclopedia - Orphism

Orphism: Spiritual - Theosophy Dictionary on Orphism, Orphic Mysteries

Orphism, Orphic Mysteries [from Greek orphikos]


Orphism originally taught of the Causeless Cause on which all speculation is impossible; the periodical appearance and disappearance of all things, from atom to universe; reimbodiment; cyclic law; the essential divinity of all beings and things; and the duality in manifestation of the universe. It postulated seven emanations from the Boundless: aether (spirit) and chaos (matter), from which two spring the world egg, out of which is born Phanes, the First Logos; then Uranus (and Gaia) the Second Logos, with Kronos (and Rhea, mother of the Olympian gods) a later phase of the Second Logos; and Zeus, the Third Logos or Demiurge -- who starts a minor sevenfold hierarchy of emanation by begetting Zagreus-Dionysos the god-man, the divine son.


Characteristic of Orphic cosmogony is the important place given to the number seven. "The rise of the Orphic worship of Dionysos is the most important fact in the history of Greek religion, and marks a great spiritual awakening. Its three great ideas are (1) a belief in the essential Divinity of humanity and the complete immortality or eternity of the soul, its pre-existence and its post-existence; (2) the necessity for individual responsibility and righteousness; and (3) the regeneration or redemption of man's lower nature by his own higher Self" (F. S. Darrow).


The Orphic teachings were kept intact by the Golden or Hermetic Chain of Succession down to the days of the Neoplatonists after which (as symbolically told in the archaic story of Eurydice) they were killed -- obscured or lost, so far as the public was concerned. Their keynote was consecration to the mandates of the god within: perfect purity, perfect impersonal love, perfect understanding, and devotion to the interests of humanity.


The three Orphic mystery-gods were Zeus, the divine All-father; Demeter-Kore, the earth goddess as both mother and maid; and Zagreus-Dionysos, the divine son. This trinity finds its counterpart in Egyptian, Indian, Chaldean, Christian, and other religions. There were two forms of baptism, one purification by water, later adopted into the Christian ritual; and the other a ceremony in which the face of the neophyte was cleansed with a mixture of earth and bran, symbolizing the washing away of stains from the soul.


The ceremony of the Eucharist was also adopted by the Christians and as Orphic ritual forbade the use of wine (substituting for it a mead of honey and milk), in the rite as adopted by the primitive Christians the neophyte drank not only wine but also milk and honey. Under Orphism, the honey symbolized not only purification and preservation, or endless life and bliss, but the secret knowledge obtained during initiation. Bees, the gatherers of honey, were emblems of the reincarnating soul, as was the butterfly; and as the bees gathered the nectar from flowers and made it into honey, so the human soul in its various peregrinations gathers from the beings and things of life the mystic experience and stores it away in the chambers of the soul. Milk symbolized knowledge, which fed the inner man, as a child of eternity, just as milk feeds the human child.


Orphism flourished from before the 14th until the 6th century BC, and again, after some five centuries of obscuration, during the first four centuries of the Christian era. Plato, Empedocles, the Pythagorean teachings, some of the Greek dramatists and poets are our main source material for the earlier period, as well as the various Orphic fragments including the Orphic Tablets.


These Tablets, with the Orphic Hymns, consist of eight gold plates containing inscriptions, dating from about the 4th century BC. They consist of instructions given to the soul for its journey through the afterdeath worlds or states very reminiscent of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The keynote is spoken by the soul: "I am a child of earth and of starry Heaven, but my race is of Heaven (alone). . . . Lo, I am parched with thirst . . ." For the later period we have the writings of the Neoplatonists and their opponents, the early Christian Fathers.


That the entire Orphic mythogony is intentionally allegorical does not invalidate that a great prehistoric religious reformer named Orpheus lived, worked, taught, and founded a religion as the outgrowth of a genuine Mystery school.


(See also: Orphism, Orphic Mysteries , Mysticism, Mysticism Dictionary)


Orphism: Spiritual - Theosophy Dictionary on Chronos

Chronos (Greek) Time; in Orphism, Phanes (or Eros), Chaos, and Chronos constitute a triad which, emanating from the Unknowable, reproduces the worlds; essentially one, it acts on the plane of maya as three distinct things.


Chronos was identified with the titan Kronos, who dethroned Ouranos and succeeded him as ruler of the world, himself being succeeded by Zeus. Kronos devours his own children, which is symbolic of time which both brings forth and destroys events.


(See also: Chronos , Mysticism, Mysticism Dictionary, Occultism, Occultism Dictionary)


Orphism: Spiritual - Theosophy Dictionary on Zagreus, Zagreus-Dionysos

Zagreus, Zagreus-Dionysos (Greek) Dionysos was an earlier name for Bacchus. The mythos concerning Zagreus belongs to the cycle of teachings of the Orphic Mysteries rather than to mythology, so no references occur in the writings for the people, such as Homer and Hesiod. The references that have come down to our day occur principally in the manuscripts of the ancient Greek dramatists, poets, and in other ancient fragments.


As cosmic evolution was taught in the Orphic Mysteries by allegory, so was the evolution of the individual soul or microcosm, centering in the mythos of Zagreus, later Zagreus-Dionysos, the Greek savior, which the Greek Dionysian Mysteries sought to unfold in dramatic and veiled or symbolic literary form. "Dionysos is one with Osiris, with Krishna, and with Buddha (the heavenly wise), and with the coming (tenth) Avatar, the glorified Spiritual Christos . . ." (SD 2:420).


Zagreus has three distinct meanings: 1) the mighty hunter (the pilgrim-soul, hunting for the truth, its aeonic pilgrimage back to divinity); 2) he that takes many captives (the Lord of the Dead); and 3) the restorer or regenerator (King of the Reborn or initiates). Zagreus (later Bacchus or Iacchos) is the divine Son, the third of the Orphic Trinity, the other two being Zeus the Demiurge or divine All-father, and Demeter-Kore, the earth goddess in her twofold aspect as the divine Mother and the mortal maid.


The mythos relates that Zagreus, a favored son of Zeus, aroused the wrath of Hera, who plotted his destruction. First she released the dethroned titans from Tartaros to slay the newborn babe. They induced the child to give up the scepter and apple for the false toys which they held before him: a thyrsos or Bacchic wand (symbol of matter and rebirth into material life), a giddy spinning top, and a mirror (maya or illusion). As the child was gazing at himself in the mirror, they seized him, tore his body into seven or fourteen pieces (as in the Egyptian Mystery tale of Osiris); boiled and roasted and then devoured them. Discovered in this enormity by Zeus, the titans were blasted with his thunderbolt and from their ashes sprang the human race.


The titans with their false gifts symbolize the pursuing energies of the personal, material life, which enchain and delude the soul. They are earth powers which lead the soul from the path by the lure of things of sense. The dismembered body is first boiled in water -- symbol of the astral world; then roasted, "as gold is tried by fire," symbol of suffering and purification and the reascent of the victorious soul to bliss.


Apollo or the Muses, at the command of Zeus, gathered the scattered fragments and interred them near the Omphalos (navel of the earth) at Delphi. The coffin was inscribed: "Here lies dead, the body of Dionysos, son of Semele," as the Zagreus myth was known only to those initiated into the Orphic Mysteries; and the Semele myth was popularly known. The exoteric myth represents the divine Son as the son of Zeus by the mortal maid Semele, Demeter-Kore in the guise of a mortal woman, to whom the still beating heart of Zagreus was entrusted when he was slain, that she might become its mother-guardian.


Hera, however, poisoned the mind of Semele with suspicion when the new-forming body of Zagreus within her reached the seventh month of gestation, and Semele impelled Zeus to reveal himself to her in his true form, whereupon the mortal body of Semele was destroyed by the divine fire. The holy babe was saved from death by Zeus, who sewed the child up in his own thigh until "the life that formerly was Zagreus, was reborn as Dionysos," the risen Savior, at Easter (the spring equinox), while as Zagreus he had been born at Semele's death at the winter solstice. Here we

See the myth's solar significance.


The nymphs of Mount Nysa reared him safely in a cave, and when he reached manhood, Hera forced him to wander over the earth. He overcame all opposition and was successful in establishing Mystery schools wherever he went. After his triumph in the world of men, Dionysos descended into the underworld and led forth his mother, now rechristened as Semele-Thyone (Semele the Inspired), to take her place among the Olympian divinities as the divine mother and radiant queen, and later, with Dionysos, to ascend to heaven.


Zagreus as Dionysos is known as the god of many names, most of which refer to his twofold character as the suffering mortal Zagreus, and the immortal or reborn god-man. Many titles also refer to him as the mystic savior. He is the All-potent, the Permanent, the Life-blood of the World, the majesty in the forest, in fruit, in the hum of the bee, in the flowing of the stream, etc., the earth in its changes -- the list runs on indefinitely, and is strikingly similar to the passage in which Krishna, the Hindu avatara, instructs Arjuna how he shall know him completely: "I am the taste in water, the light in the sun and moon," etc. (BG ch 7).


The philosophers, dramatists, and historians who held the Dionysian mythos to be purely allegorical and symbolic take in the great names of antiquity, including Plato, Pythagoras, all the Neoplatonists, the greatest historians, and a few of the early Christian Fathers, notably Clement of Alexandria; Eusebius, Tertullian, Justin, and Augustine, also write of it.


The exoteric literature of Orphism is scanty, while the esoteric teachings were never committed to writing. Outside of the Orphic Tablets and Orphic Hymns, no original material has been discovered to date. Scholars judging from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, have held that the Eleusinian Mystery-drama was based solely on the story of Persephone; but later researches indicate that, under the influence of Epimenides and Onomakritos, both deep students of Orphism, the Orphic Mystery tale of Zagreus-Dionysos was incorporated in the Eleusian ritual, the divine son Iacchos becoming thus identified with the Orphic god-man, Zagreus-Dionysos.


Cosmically this highly esoteric story refers to the cosmic Logos building the universe and becoming thereby not only its inspiriting and invigorating soul, but likewise the divinity guiding manifestation from Chaos to complete fullness of evolutionary grandeur; and in the case of mankind, the legend refers to the origin, peregrinations, and destiny of the human monad, itself a spiritual consciousness-center, from unself-consciousness as a god-spark, through the wanderings of destiny until becoming a fully self-conscious god. The key to the symbolism of Zagreus-Dionysos is given by Plato in the Cratylus: "The Spirit within us is the true image of Dionysos. He therefore who acts erroneously in regard to It . . . sins against Dionysos Himself," i.e., the inner god, the divinity in man. The legend thus contains not only past cosmic as well as human history, but contains as a prophecy what will come to pass in the distant future.


(See also: Zagreus, Zagreus-Dionysos , Mysticism, Mysticism Dictionary, Body mind and Soul)


Orphism: Spiritual - Theosophy Dictionary on Phorcys

Phorcys (Greek) A sea god, son of Pontos and Gaia (sea and earth), and father by Ceto of the Graiae, Gorgons, Sirens, Scylla, and Atlas. Mentioned in Orphism as one of the primeval titans.


(See also: Phorcys , Mysticism, Mysticism Dictionary, Occultism, Occultism Dictionary)


Orphism: Encyclopedia - Zagreus

In Greek mythology, Zagreus was identified with the god Dionysus and was worshipped by followers of Orphism. According to the followers of Orphism, Zeus had laid with either Demeter or Persephone in the form of a snake. The result of their union was Zagreus. Zeus had intended Zagreus to be his heir, but a jealous Hera persuaded the Titans to kill the child. The Titans distracted Zagreus with toys, then carried him away and tore Zagreus to pieces. When the Titans were finished, nothing was left but Zagreus' heart, which A ...

Read more here: » Zagreus: Encyclopedia - Zagreus

Orphism: Encyclopedia II - Art periods - Prehistoric art

Pre-historic art | Category:Pre-historic art Cave painting Section to be expanded. ...

See also:

Art periods, Art periods - Prehistoric art, Art periods - African art, Art periods - Oceania art, Art periods - South American art, Art periods - Central American art, Art periods - Asian art, Art periods - Western art, Art periods - Ancient art, Art periods - Pre-Columbian art, Art periods - Native American art, Art periods - Islamic art, Art periods - Christian art, Art periods - Medieval art, Art periods - Renaissance art, Art periods - Renaissance to Romanticism, Art periods - Romanticism, Art periods - Romanticism to Modern art, Art periods - Modern art, Art periods - Contemporary art, Art periods - Other

Read more here: » Art periods: Encyclopedia II - Art periods - Prehistoric art

Orphism: Encyclopedia II - Modern art - Art movements and artist groups

(Chronological with representative artists listed.) Modern art - End of 19th century. Romanticism (the Romantic movement) - Francisco de Goya, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres Realism - Gustave Courbet Impressionism - Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet Post-impressionism - Georges Seurat Symbolism - Gustave Moreau Les Nabis Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec played a special role during this peri ...

See also:

Modern art, Modern art - History, Modern art - Roots in the 19th century, Modern art - Early 20th Century, Modern art - Art movements and artist groups, Modern art - End of 19th century, Modern art - Early 20th century before WWI, Modern art - Between WWI and WWII, Modern art - After WWII, Modern art - Important Modern art exhibitions and museums

Read more here: » Modern art: Encyclopedia II - Modern art - Art movements and artist groups

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